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FFL: Playoff Week 1 | NFL: Week 14

Saints-Buccaneers Preview

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Players: Drew Brees, Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, Chris Godwin

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) carries on a pass reception ahead of Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) and defensive end Vic Beasley (44) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes under pressure from Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston passes during warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Drew Brees looks at Tampa Bay and sees an opportunity for the New Orleans Saints to reassert themselves, though not necessarily because the Buccaneers have a young, inexperienced secondary.

The Bucs may rank last in the NFL in pass defense, but the veteran quarterback of the NFC South leaders - coming off a lopsided loss to the Atlanta Falcons - says he pays a lot more attention to game film than numbers while preparing for an opponent.

''I'm saying just in general, I don't look at statistics and then judge a defense or anyone based just on the statistics,'' Brees said. ''I'm going to turn on the tape, I'm going to trust what I see, and then I'm going to go out to execute according to that.''

The Bucs (3-6) lead the NFL in run defense, yielding just 77.8 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, they're allowing an average of 299 through the air while giving up a league-high 31 points per game.

And that's before coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht decided to part ways with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was waived this week after being benched for a portion of last Sunday's 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

With a couple of other young, inexperienced players dealing with injuries, Tampa Bay probably will be forced to start three rookies (safety Mike Edwards, cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean) and a second-year player (safety Jordan Whitehead) in the defensive backfield against the Saints on Sunday.

Brees isn't assuming New Orleans (7-2) will have a clear-cut advantage.

''They're young, but they're talented,'' the 40-year-old quarterback said. ''Look at the investment that they've made in their secondary over the last three years with draft picks.''

Hargreaves was a first-round pick, No. 11 overall in 2016. In addition to selecting him, the Bucs used four second-round selections, two third-round picks and a pair of fourth-rounders on defensive backs over the past four years.

''Defensively, we're still a work in progress. ... All those young kids in the secondary are getting better and better,'' said Arians, whose team ended a four-game losing streak against Arizona.

Now, it's the division-leading Saints looking to rebound after being held without a touchdown in last week's 26-9 loss to last-place Atlanta.

New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 31-24 at home without an injured Brees (thumb) on Oct. 6. After facing the Bucs again, the Saints will complete a stretch of four consecutive games against NFC South foes by hosting Carolina and traveling to Atlanta.

Brees expects the Saints to play better Sunday.

''We were extremely disappointed in our performance (last week). I think we know we're a lot better than that and understand that, especially at this point in the season, this is a time when we really want to start separating ourselves from the pack,'' he said.

SECONDARY SHUFFLE

While the Saints held Bucs receiver Mike Evans without a catch in their last meeting, the defender who primarily covered Evans might not be able to play on Sunday. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore left last weekend's game with a pulled hamstring. The Saints moved P.J. Williams to cornerback and rookie C.J. Gardner Johnson into Williams' usual nickel back slot. The results were encouraging. Although the Saints lost, the Falcons finished with fewer than 200 net yards passing. Still, Saints coach Sean Payton is weary of Jameis Winston's ability to get the ball downfield to both Evans and Chris Godwin.

''Their passing numbers right now are outstanding when you look at (the Bucs' success rate on) third down, at what they're scoring,'' Payton said. ''So, changing up the looks, trying to affect him is important and then understanding, hey, how are the interceptions coming, how are the fumbles coming? All of those things you study.''

RESOUNDING MESSAGE

Hargreaves was due to earn $9 million next season, although it was guaranteed for injury only. While the impending salary was a factor in the decision to release the fourth-year pro, the move also reiterated one of Arians' points of emphasis in his first season with the Bucs.

''You control your attitude and your effort,'' the coach said. ''You don't control a lot of things, but you control those two - and they better be good.''

LINE ITEMS

Starting left guard Andrus Peat, a 2018 Pro Bowl selection and 2015 first-round pick, broke his arm during New Orleans' loss to Atlanta and had surgery this week. His recovery could keep him out until the final week of the regular season. Will Clapp, a second-year pro out of LSU, was first off the bench to replace Peat during the game. Clapp struggled, but so did much of the offensive line that day, when Brees was sacked six times. In addition to Clapp, the Saints have a couple of veterans who could sub in as needed: Nick Easton and Patrick Omameh. Easton was signed as a free agent when center Max Unger retired, but the Saints then acquired Texas A&M center Erik McCoy in the second round of last spring's draft and he won the job. Easton has played in just three games this season and was a healthy scratch last weekend, but that could change.

''Every season, you're going to have guys that go down for a period of time - you hope not too long, and you have to have guys step up and fill in,'' Brees said. ''I'm confident with the guys we have to do that.''

Player Notes
Mark Ingram Dec 7 9:40pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed for 59 yards on 15 attempts in Week 13's win over the 49ers. Ingram could produce a healthy amount of production against a Bills Defense with a weakness against the run. Ingram will continue to share the ball with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, but he is still the No. 1 option in the backfield and will get the majority of touches. If the Ravens can get the run game going early, Ingram has a good chance to get in the end zone. He is an RB2 going into Sunday's Week 13 matchup.

From RotoBaller

John Ross Dec 7 9:33pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross (shoulder) should see a 'healthy amount of targets' when he returns in Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns, in the opinion of Ben Baby of ESPN.com.

Fantasy Spin: Although Ross may have his snaps limited in a bit in his return, his game is built around big plays, not volume. He could still be worth a flier as a boom-or-bust flex play.

From TheHuddle

Marquise Brown Dec 7 9:30pm ET

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown caught 1-of-2 targets for one yard in Week 13 against the 49ers. Prior to last week, Brown hadn't been targeted less than four times in a game this season. Part of Brown's lack of involvement was due to Baltimore attacking San Francisco with its run game, but his output was disappointing, to say the least. The Ravens matchup against a Buffalo Bills Defense in Week 14 that has been stingy to opposing wide receivers. Hollywood is a touchdown-dependent play against Buffalo and stands in low-end WR3 territory.

From RotoBaller

Matthew Stafford Dec 7 9:23pm ET

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back, hip) said his injured back is healing 'as it should' and won't cause any long-term issues.

Fantasy Spin: Stafford will remained sidelined in Week 14, and there is a good chance he won't play again this season. If you own Stafford in a dynasty league, he should be ready to roll for 2020.

From TheHuddle

Mark Andrews Dec 7 9:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews caught 3-of-6 targets for 50 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers in Week 13. Andrews was able to produce a solid performance despite playing a stout 49ers Defense. Baltimore matches up against a Bills Defense in Week 14 that has allowed only two touchdowns to opposing tight ends in 2019, including one to Jason Witten in Week 13. As the most heavily targeted option in Baltimore, Andrews is still a TE1 as reliable tight ends are scarce.

From RotoBaller

Jason Myers Dec 7 9:00pm ET

Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers has turned his season around since his hiccoughs against Tampa Bay, and he'll need to be on point against a dangerous Rams team this weekend. Last time, Seattle squeaked out a victory thanks to a last-second shanked field goal by the Rams kicker, so Myers was bailed out for missing one of his own earlier in the game. Now he comes into the game having made six straight field goals and nine straight extra points. Expect Pete Carroll to continue to depend mightily on Myers, and he could be just what a desperate fantasy owner needs to finish out the playoffs.

From RotoBaller

Jadeveon Clowney Dec 7 9:00pm ET

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks is doubtful to go against the Rams on Sunday night due to a hamstring injury that has lingered all week. That means the Seahawks Defense will likely be starting rookie linebacker Cody Barton when they take the field in the Coliseum. The third-round pick out of Utah has gotten nothing but effusive praise from head coach Pete Carroll, but the notoriously upbeat coach is usually overflowing with praise about every player in the league. The good news is that Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah are both expected to be able to go, so hopefully the pass rush can stay mean and buy some more time for the newbie when he's in coverage.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Lockett Dec 7 8:50pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett has had a rough couple of weeks, but hopes are high for Sunday's primetime game against the Rams. Lockett was downed with a serious shin contusion at the end of the 49ers game four weeks ago, and then just as he fully recovered from that, he was one of a handful of Seahawks to come down with the flu before the Vikings game. He made it through, but he didn't catch any balls along the way. Now removed from both issues, Lockett is expected to be back to full speed against the Rams, a team he's traditionally had a lot of success against. Fantasy owners should find solace in that.

From RotoBaller

D.K. Metcalf Dec 7 8:40pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf snuck behind the defense and hauled in a bomb from Russell Wilson for a touchdown in his first career game against the Rams, and LA is definitely preparing to try to prevent that from happening again. Metcalf has excelled in that arena, hauling in a pass for 20 or more yards in nine of his 12 games this season, and fantasy owners should bank on Seattle looking for Metcalf downfield once again on Sunday night. The workout wonder has grown throughout the season and turned into more of a possession receiver while Tyler Lockett was hampered with a leg injury, but Lockett is expected to be back to full speed on Sunday, which should give Metcalf the freedom to roam a little more. Expect to see at least one long bomb with his name on it.

From RotoBaller

Chris Carson Dec 7 8:30pm ET

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson was one of the team's strongest weapons when they beat the Rams at home earlier this year, and he'll need to bring that same fire to LA if Seattle is going to come out on top again. Carson has been a beastly back this year, even if the recent surge of carries for Rashaad Penny has hurt fantasy owners. Carson has shown that he welcomes the addition of Penny to the mix, so expect him to share the load once again, but Carson remains the No. 1 option for the team. Any owner isn't going to turn away from him at this point, and Carson should easily clear the 1,000-yard hurdle in 2019 by putting up another strong game against his division rival.

From RotoBaller

Rashaad Penny Dec 7 8:30pm ET

Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny was bombarded with insults earlier in the season when he continued to struggle to find his footing in the NFL, but his last two games have silenced a whole lot of those critics. Now, he'll get another go at one of the team's bitter division rivals in primetime on Sunday night. Penny tallied just 18 yards on six carries last time he saw LA, but now he's coming off back-to-back thrashings of the Philadelphia and Minnesota defenses. Penny's impressive performances will likely keep his name in the mix throughout the game, and he should continue to show considerable improvement over his previous version.

From RotoBaller

Russell Wilson Dec 7 8:20pm ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson put up a huge game against the Rams last time out, and he'll need another top-tier performance if Seattle's going to hang on to first place in the NFC West. Unfortunately, the LA defense has had a renaissance since the last time Wilson saw them. They have allowed 20 or fewer points in six of their last seven games with the only outlier being the drubbing that Baltimore gave them. Now on Sunday night, Wilson will need to summon all his magic to ensure Seattle can bring home a victory. Fortunately, Wilson specializes at excelling in primetime. He should put up some big numbers on Sunday night.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Dec 7 8:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for 105 yards, ran for 101 yards and scored a touchdown through the air and on the ground in Week 13's win over the 49ers. The Ravens have another tough defensive matchup in Week 14 in Buffalo. The Bills Defense has conceded only nine passing touchdowns this season and has held opposing quarterbacks to an average of 12 fantasy points per game. Jackson remains in must-start territory for this game and for the rest of the season, if it wasn't already obvious. The Bills defense has allowed 109 rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks in 2019, but Jackson ran for eight yards shy of that in last week against San Francisco. Jackson simply cannot be sat.

From RotoBaller

Neiko Thorpe Dec 7 7:53pm ET

Seattle Seahawks CB Neiko Thorpe (hernia) is expected to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list next week.

From TheHuddle

Mario Addison Dec 7 7:43pm ET

Carolina Panthers DE Mario Addison (groin) is expected to play in the Week 14 game even though he is listed as questionable.

From TheHuddle

Evan Engram Dec 7 6:53pm ET

New York Giants TE Evan Engram (foot) said he is not sure if he will be able to play again this season but will try his best to play in one of the last three games.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor Engram's practice participation over the next few weeks to see if he has any chance to play again this season. Kaden Smith has been targeted 14 times over the last two games and posted 70 yards last week. He could be a possible low-end No. 1 tight end in deeper leagues.

From TheHuddle

Leighton Vander Esch Dec 7 6:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is scheduled to undergo more tests on his injured neck Monday, Dec. 9. Head coach Jason Garrett said the team will not rush Vander Esch back.

From TheHuddle

Von Miller Dec 7 6:23pm ET

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller (knee) said he will participate in pregame warmups before he decides if he will be able to play in the Week 14 game.

From TheHuddle

Delanie Walker Dec 7 6:13pm ET

Tennessee Titans TE Delanie Walker (ankle) said he is scheduled to undergo a procedure on his ankle next week. He said he plans to play next season.

Fantasy Spin: Walker has been a solid fantasy option for several years, but it is not known if he will be able to find a starting job next season. Jonnu Smith has taken over as the starting tight end for the Titans and can be a low-end No. 1 tight end.

From TheHuddle

Le'Veon Bell Dec 7 5:20pm ET

New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (illness) has been officially ruled out for the Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday at 1 pm ET. The timing is not ideal for fantasy football owners, with most leagues starting their first round playoff matchups this week and now missing a top running back. Expect Bilal Powell to step in as the leading running back for the Jets on Sunday, with Ty Montgomery likely seeing increased usage as well.

From RotoBaller